The depth and breadth of God’s love revealed
“I don’t want one of God’s children begging a Coke,” my hostess told me as she gave me some Zimbabwean dollars. My husband and I were visiting in her home in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Though it happened more than 20 years ago, that small act of generosity still touches me.
The amount was not large, but to me the gift was magnanimous. We were strangers, yet she treated me like a beloved family member by giving me pocket money to spend on momentary pleasures.
Attentive to tenderness
I like to be attentive to these tiny acts of tenderness in my own life and the lives of others.
In fact, when I am in a crowd of people, I watch how they care for each other in ordinary ways. A mom who lovingly inspects her child and removes a piece of fluff from her daughter’s outfit. A wife who casually leans against her husband as they both view a sand sculpture at the Canadian National Exhibition. A long-married husband who puts his arm protectively around his wife as he listens to her on the subway.
These little gestures impress me because they seem instinctive. Not prompted by obligation or a special occasion, they leak out from deep within.
Tenderness in Scripture
I also search for expressions of tenderness in Scripture. I savour the depth and breadth they reveal of God’s love for his people.
Picture this scene from Genesis. God is calling for Adam and Eve in the garden. They are hiding because they are aware of their nakedness after eating the forbidden fruit. When God finds them, he metes out the necessary consequences for their grievous sin. Adam and Eve must leave the Garden of Eden and are doomed to experience pain and difficulty in their work.
Then it says, “The Lord God made clothes from animal skins for the man and his wife and dressed them” (Genesis 3:21 NCV). After punishing Adam and Eve, God provides garments for his children and covers their vulnerable bodies.
Jesus also shows compassion in large and small ways.
In the midst of a heated moment as the chief priests arrive with soldiers to arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter cuts off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus tells Peter to put his sword away. Then he touches the servant’s ear, supernaturally reattaching it (Luke 22:50–51).
Unstoppable love flows from Jesus even when his life is in danger and the recipient of his kindness is the servant of an enemy.
Hunt for the treasures
Another of my favourite tender acts in the Bible takes place at the end of the John’s Gospel after Jesus has risen from the dead.
Discouraged and restless, Peter, James, John, Nathaniel, Thomas and two other disciples decide to go fishing. After trawling all night, they’ve caught nothing. It was one of those days!
Then a stranger calls to them from the shore, “Friends haven’t you caught any fish?” The stranger tells them to throw their net on the right side of the boat. When they do, their nets overflow with fish.
Though miraculously providing fish for his friends is pretty awesome, it’s actually a small detail that catches my attention. When the disciples come ashore, “They found breakfast waiting for them – fish cooking over a charcoal fire and some bread” (John 21:9 NLT). To me, cooking a delicious meal for friends who need comfort is an intimate, motherly thing to do.
I encourage you to go on a treasure hunt for these loving expressions in Scripture. Let the experiences of the “great cloud of witnesses” in the Bible (Hebrews 12:1) prime the pump as you recall God’s caring overtures in your own life. Remember the times God has surprised you with the desires of your heart in detailed ways that speak of his wealth of compassion for you. Thank God for the ordinary intimacies that reveal a lavish, beneficent, ceaseless, almost superfluous love.